Carmen Angerer

Romantic or Abusive? Why Facts Don’t Matter in a Viral Love Story

The viral tale about the lovelorn man attempting to win back his ex with an endless piano has split the Internet in twain. Is it abusive behavior? Or romance? I personally think it’s neither.


A man sits down and begins to play the piano.

Next to him is a sign that says he is heartbroken. He is playing because he wants to win back his ex-girlfriend. According to the press, these are the facts about Luke Howard, the Internet’s latest sticking point.

People go nuts for love stories (especially ones that end badly) because it allows them to project themselves onto the situation. Love and heartbreak is universal, right? Right! … Until it’s not.

This is someone’s life; it doesn’t belong to us.

Twitter is up in arms about the story with people taking sides stating that this would-be-Romeo’s behavior is emotionally abusive, while others claim it’s a grand romantic gesture. What both of these opinions lack are any facts about the silent party – the ex-girlfriend. If we are to cast aspersions on the abuse or romance of a situation, it’s important that we understand the perspective of both parties involved. Whether his behavior is emotionally abusive (or not) is really up to the girl it’s directed at.

This story is only interesting in that it brings out tightly-held views about a range of other issues: the first being assumed knowledge of a relationship in which very little information has been given; the second, discomfort at a man displaying vulnerable behavior in a public place. And the most interesting part of this discussion? The fact that we are having it at all.

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In the age of social media, all you have to do is upload a video and you could become a celebrity overnight. We’ve all seen the viral videos of proposals gone wrong (or right) and weddings where people dance gleefully down the aisle. Love and heartbreak is intriguing precisely because it’s so relatable and so personal. Why else do people buy magazines based solely on the sordid details of celebrity make-ups and break-ups?

In my opinion, the pianist’s actions don’t make him an abuser or even a hopeless romantic. He seems like a young person who is unaware that relationships take more work than an endless piano solo. But again, who am I to give my opinion?

Here’s what we should be considering about this situation:

1) We need to stop weighing into situations we have zero facts about online. The results can be incredibly damaging for the actual people involved, and for those of us who shoot words at each other from behind keyboards – we could learn to deal with our anger in more productive ways, like taking up boxing or jujitsu, or just generally owning our shit.

2) We need to consume media in a better, more meaningful way. When was the last time you legitimately read a long-form article? Can you differentiate between news from a reputable source and clickbait? Who runs and funds the websites you consume your information from? Learn them. Read at least three different long-form articles from different (reputable) sources before you weigh in on the issue like it’s your PhD.

3) The world is full of damaged, heartbroken, and vulnerable people. We connect with them because we are them. Make it okay to be vulnerable in public places, for everyone. Allow people to talk about their feelings and their relationships. Give people space to love and have their hearts broken without shaming them online.

4) Don’t assume facts about another person’s experience. We are all guilty of this. If you don’t know, don’t comment.

We need to work together to be better citizens in the online space. We now have countless ways to communicate and if we’re not careful, we’ll waste every minute we spend on these disaffected connections because we’re digitally yelling into each other’s faces.

If you need me, I’ll be sitting here playing piano until we all learn to take steps one through four.


Carmen Angerer

Carmen Angerer is a Melbourne writer who works as a digital marketer by day and reads books all night. She's currently writing her first novel and spends her life being fascinated by the human condition and the deliciousness of garlic dip. You can find more of her work at

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